I knew I needed to leave home at about 7am to get a front-row spot for the public walkabout section of Harry and Meghan in Melbourne – it was to be a whirlwind stop on their larger royal tour, but was awake well before my alarm anyway. My DiDi driver had a bit of a giggle when he came to pick me up and found out why I was going, and so early.
But if you’re me and you’ve been following the royals for 30 years and one of them is finally in the same geographical location you are, it’s best not to take any chances! What I did take was three camera lenses of differing sizes, a fully-charged iPhone, a GoPro strapped to my chest (yes I’m laughing too but it ended up being a true stroke of genius), a backpack full of food, water, and umbrellas, and comfortable shoes. There was going to be a lot of standing.
I took up a position at the railing about halfway up Government House drive and waited patiently for about half an hour, making friends with a fellow early bird and seeing the hustle and bustle going on around us with the media. We overheard a staff member telling some people across the road that if we were standing this far down, we’d miss any contact with the royal couple as the designated meet and greet section was closer to the House gates.
My new friend and I hustled over to the other side of the public walkway only to find we’d lost our coveted front-row positions and were now one step back behind a Very Determined front line. Some had staked out their positions with chairs and blankets and were rightly protective of their area. I was disappointed for about half a second, but really – I know the royals are very good at saying hello to the folks in the back, and I’d get my chance. I’ve got long arms.
The folks either side of us were also Very Determined and I had quite an amusing two hours while a tiny lady shoulder barged me repeatedly, attempting to take over my spot because it had a better view. My new friend (Gemma, her name was Gemma) managed to edge her way to the front but not before an eager young lass behind her stood on her heels, leaning over her at a good 45-degree angle, ready to swoop should Gemma shuffle even an inch. There was a gap of about a metre behind her and the royals weren’t due to arrive until 10.30am – we had just ticked a minute past 8am.
I chatted with everyone around me as we waited, apologising for bags on feet and cameras wedged into backs. We kept place for each other as people ducked to the loo or off for a ciggie, and generally passed the time very pleasantly.
With about an hour to go someone tapped me on the shoulder over about two or three rows of people (the perils of being the tallest in a crowd, haha) and asked if there was room at the front and if she could push through? I’d never seen her before in my life, and the folks behind me were ruthless. Before I could get a word out, they’d all shuffled forward, elbows out, muttering about how rude it was to interlope over folks who had been her since seven-bloody-thirty. The loudest of the naysayers were two older ladies from Manchester in England, who were tough as nails and going to pat Harry’s hand or die trying. They were hilarious and extraordinarily entertaining, particularly when the girl standing over Gemma realised one of them had got the edge on her in the crowd, so she wedged her giant puffer-jacketed elbow in between Gemma and the Manchester lady’s head. She was not having it and you could hear her tut-tutting from two suburbs over.
I was losing it at this point, the entire thing was comical and I couldn’t believe my luck.
Twitter was extraordinarily quiet about Harry and Meghan’s movements that morning and we were pretty clueless as to what time they’d actually show up. The official word was 10.30am and chatter among the crowd put it more at 11. All we knew is that they had left Sydney, at least.
A lovely young lady wandered along handing out little Aussie flags she’d brought with her, and we all crowded around someone else who was watching the Channel 7 live stream on her phone, looking for updates. We heard they had landed but were fighting traffic as an accident on the motorway had created a six-hour delay for motorists.
The special police who had previously taken up their positions along the route and then left again came back. We could see the motorcade winding through the western suburbs on the Channel 7 coverage, all of us trying to find a familiar landmark to figure out where they were and how far away it was.
Eventually, the waiting media began taking their places on the raised platform set aside especially for them, and we knew it couldn’t be too much longer.
You could hear the excited screams and shouts of “Harry!” for miles – they must have been out of their car at that point and walking down the road. So glad I moved as they ended up walking straight past my original spot without stopping and skipped over quite a few people. We all stood on tiptoes to get a look but as the road was curved we couldn’t see a damn thing, only a giant mass of people all with their phones up.
First the press pack arrived in front of us, and then the couple’s staff. We could see Meghan across the road speaking to the other people gathered (she is absolutely tiny and her hair was magnificent – as were her shoes) and we could hear Harry chatting away to the people just beside us. I had been taking some photos, but I put my phone away so I could just be in the moment, should there be a moment.
Harry did some hand shaking and hellos and waves and then got to me and my little knitted bootees (you can see the video here). He took them and said “these are officially the smallest socks… how am I going to get them on?” we had a laugh and he asked did I knit them myself and I answered yes I did. He gave me the funniest look, like “oh you”, and then held out his hand to shake mine. As I shook it, he asked me my name and thanked me very much. Um no it’s cool Hazza, thank YOU I mean really. I only needed a cup of tea and a lie down after such an encounter (and as Beth’s husband said later, a post-coital cigarette).
It was so funny, because for that moment I didn’t even hear the screaming and carrying on, forgot really even where I was and the fact I was hemmed in like a sardine on all sides – I barely even noticed my tiny lady friend and her overlarge iPad basically directly in my face. I had my little moment and then he was gone.
The best part about him is that he too blocks out the cacophony and totally focuses on who he is speaking to, like he can’t even see the billions of hands reaching for him and the multiple billions of cameras and phones. This face he had when he shook the Manchester lady’s hand next to me is honestly the face he gives to everyone, like he’s DE-FUCKING-LIGHTED to be speaking to them. No wonder they were killing themselves to get within 10 feet of the lad.
He later handed over the gifts received to the Army soldier behind, passing him a bundleful of goodies before delicately handing over the bootees on top that he’d been holding the whole time. The soldier smiled so happily when he saw them, it was really sweet.
I of course was frantically texting Beth about my encounter because I couldn’t work my shaking hands to make a damn phone call (she couldn’t have heard me anyway), so every shot of me on the news is with my head in my phone, haha. Typical. For someone with it in their pocket on airplane mode so I didn’t run out of battery most of the time, it was just my luck. It was also to be a leitmotif for all the times I found myself on footage in the coming days – just the top of my head, buried in deep concentration sending the photos out to the folks at home.
I had considered following along to the Charcoal Lane cafe and perhaps even Albert Park school afterward (blessed be to my readers and friends who passed on their advanced knowledge!) but it was going to be a big three days coming up and I decided to head home.
Not before accidentally walking 200m in the wrong direction, I was so dazed, haha!
Beth and I had a little chat when we were in Sydney about this encounter and our efforts running around Sydney to get the premier frontline news for all our listeners – we hope you enjoy our Throne Rangers Royal Tour Special Edition!